If there's one constant in life, it's change - and that's never more true than in the business world. Change seems to be happening at an increasingly accelerating pace, creating more and more challenges for companies of every size. So what are the big issues facing today's CEOs, and how are they looking to overcome them?
Retaining customer trust and loyalty
The marketplace is now truly a global one, meaning it's more important than ever before to maintain a loyal customer base. But in a digital world, maintaining customer trust is equally, if not more, important. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the World Economic Forum discovered 58 per cent of CEOs are concerned that a lack of trust could harm their growth (which is a significant increase from 37 per cent in 2013).
It seems the "modern business" can't just rest on its laurels. You always need to make sure you're reacting to your customers' changing needs, and ideally anticipating them before they even identify them themselves. Establishing a strong corporate purpose, identity and reflecting that across the company's values and culture is also key in winning and maintaining customer trust in our social media dominated world.
Managing digital disruption
Advances in technology are changing the way customers want to deal with businesses. Today's consumers want easy payment methods, they want to shop when they want, and they want multi-channel retail options - including social media.
Many businesses are struggling to adapt and, as a result, are delivering an experience well below customer expectations. In the words of Dr Leila Fourie, CEO of the Australian Payments Clearing Association, "If businesses don't support the payment options their customers want and are becoming increasingly used to, then they risk negatively impacting on their shopping experience and potentially losing customers." It's no surprise then, that many CEOs see new technology as one of the most disruptive trends they face.
Smart CEOs realise that it's not on them alone to get ahead of the trend, but instead empower their people to innovate and find solutions. And that can mean giving a voice to the youngest or newest employees, or fostering a culture of both internal and external collaboration.
Competition is a way of life, but what we're seeing more and more of is new technologies or business models totally upending the status quo with the potential to annihilate whole industries. Just look at how the advent of streaming technology has made the video store industry all but obsolete, or how Uber is literally driving taxis off the road.
So if your industry is innovating, make sure you are innovating with it. CEOs need to be brave, bold and decisive. That means trying new things, but also being willing to accept the fact that mistakes will happen. Think like a start-up, and you're less likely to overtaken by one.
Finding the right talent
Industry change means new skills are constantly needed, and many CEOs rightly have concerns that a lack of the right skills could impact business growth. This can be a particular issue when there is big change or growth in a company followed by a sudden demand for specific skill sets. The focus on innovation that we've already discussed also brings its own challenges, as it requires companies to hire people not only with specific skills and knowledge, but with emotional intelligence and the ability to problem solve - not always an easy combination to track down.
Many CEOs then are finding themselves looking beyond the traditional hiring pool to a more global search. More and more are also relying heavily on the "gig economy" with freelancers and temporary workers making up an increasing proportion of the workforce.
Adapt, innovate, survive
Ultimately, businesses will always face challenges to survive, but the key takeaway is to not rely on the status quo, or to assume that because a customer is loyal today they will be loyal tomorrow. Change is always happening, and those that survive are those that anticipate, rather than ignore it.